Resilience is a concept that is increasingly being used in development policies and programming as an approach to build capacity to deal with change. There are a wide range of approaches available and others that are under development for assessing and measuring resilience.

SwedBio, UNDP and MELCA-Ethiopia in Addis Ababa jointly organised a Multi-actor Resilience Dialogue between 12-14 November 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, bringing together around 50 participants from 17 different countries, representing government, international development organisations, practitioners, scientists, communities and farmers.


Integrating social-ecological principles into development frameworks

The dialogue offered an opportunity for a variety of actors from policy, practice and science, who are working on resilience at different levels, to come together to find common ground on key concepts and approaches, and to identify specific steps in integrating social-ecological resilience principles and resilience thinking into development and biodiversity planning frameworks, i.e.:

  • Resilience thinking: To exchange experiences on resilience thinking in research, policy and practice, with an outcome of a shared understanding of the concept of social-ecological resilience;
  • Resilience assessments in practice: To exchange diverse experiences and approaches to resilience assessments at multiple scales for multiple purposes, with an outcome of a better understanding of the range of resilience assessments, and a clearer consensus on some key steps;
  • Resilience mainstreaming: To explore and formulate recommendations on how to integrate and mainstream resilience thinking into key policies and practices, including into national biodiversity plans, national development plans, and community resource management practices, with an outcome of closer consensus on some key steps required to integrate resilience thinking.


The dialogue recognised that resilience thinking includes many approaches and concepts, such as a recently published synthesis developed by resilience scholars (Biggs et al 2012, and Biggs et al 2015) that have identified seven principles for building resilience: Maintain diversity and redundancy; Manage connectivity; Manage slow variables and feedbacks; Foster complex adaptive systems thinking; Encourage learning; Broaden participation; and Promote polycentric governance. Based on exercises around case studies presented by Equator Initiative Prize winners from Ethiopia, Zambia, Kenya and Sudan, participants in the dialogue identified additional principles of key importance such as the need for good leadership and change agents, happiness and identity.


Approaches for measuring and assessing resilience

Different approaches to measuring and assessing resilience were presented. Some are useful on different scales and for different contexts and purposes, including: The Resilience, Adaptation Pathways and Transformation Assessment Framework (RAPTA), the Toolkit for the Indicators of Resilience in Socio-Ecological Productions Landscapes and Seascapes, the Resilience Alliance Workbook, and the Communities Self-Assessing Resilience (CSAR) process. A recommendation coming out of the dialogue was to synthesise complementary approaches to make them more accessible to practitioners, scientists, communities and policymakers.


Related to resilience mainstreaming, a recommendation from the dialogue was that institutions, governments, communities, sectors, implementing agencies and others consider how to integrate resilience thinking into their sectoral and development plans, programs, and policy frameworks. It was recognised that mainstreaming resilience offers a pro-active approach and should be done in consultation with actors in the whole policy, programme or project cycle such as in policy, programme formulation process, awareness activities, identification of links between sectors, plans, performing activities, follow up including monitoring, evaluation and learning.


The Multi-Actor Resilience Dialogue offered an opportunity for policy makers, scientists and practitioners to analyze various approaches to addressing, assessing, measuring and mainstreaming resilience by focusing on how resilience is understood and managed in a variety of contexts. It was emphasised that these opportunities should continue with representation from developing countries, organisations and institutions from different scales, from village level to national and international scale. The way we frame the questions relates to our experience and knowledge, and to work on resilience includes recognising that our value systems influence our ways of thinking, assess and mainstream resilience.